IF AMBASSADOR CAMPBELL TASTES AMERICAN DOSE
Former American ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell is reputed to be a commentator on Nigerian affairs with tremendous influence among Council on Foreign Relations and the Foreign Policy Magazine. In that capacity, Campbell collided with Nigerian government when he described the legislative process of elevating Goodluck Jonathan to the rank of Acting President as 'extra legal' with the spectre of political gloom if zoning policy was abandoned.
By the way, Campbell's view on the legislative process making Goodluck Jonathan Acting President tallies with mine which I duly expressed several times in this column. While Ambassador Campbell has been threatened with sanction by Nigerian government, I have already been sanctioned by the American government.
It was therefore understandable that Nigeria's Father Mathew Kukah rose to John Campbell's defence that instead of being irritated (I am not), Nigerians should understand the thrust of Campbell's concern especially as he (Campbell) was careful to foresee that Nigeria 'might' (and not 'will') descend into post-election chaos. So far, I agree with Father Kukah since, if I may emphasise again, I hold the same view with Ambassador Campbell. Father Kukah clearly disapproves of the threat of Nigerian Ambassador in United States, Professor Adefuye not to renew John Campbell's visa. I may rebuke Ambassador Adefuye for his open threat. All he had to do was to wait till then and disapprove John Campbell's application to renew his visa.
Such sanction has nothing to do with the person of John Campbell. Till now, I believe the man has nothing against Nigeria. He simply expressed views which we, Nigerians, have also expressed, to the extent that the legislative process of making Goodluck Jonathan Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is unconstitutional. The transcript of Umaru Yar'Adua's broadcast over an overseas radio and published in Nigeria is not the same as the clearly stated requirement of Nigerian constitution for a 'written declaration' and medical report to justify the incapacity of an ailing Nigerian President.
Therefore, ordinarily, I would have disagreed with the decision of Nigerian government not to renew Ambassador Campbell's Nigerian visa. But in this case, John Campbell should see his plight as that of a victim of America's similar policy on Nigerians.
Ambassador Campbell regarded the legislation on Goodluck Jonathan to become Acting President as unconstitutional. I said the same thing in this column during the crisis, long before Campbell said so. As a Nigerian, I have more right to take a stand on anything Nigerian even if wrongly. That is a matter for our internal disagreement and not the business of American government. In any case, our disagreement as Nigerians on the Yar'Adua crisis was no more than Americans disagree among themselves on their domestic economic, political and military issues.
Does Nigerian government ever decide for Americans what the final decision should be? On Nigeria, America's priority as often officially stated is ever strategic for their military and economic interests. And therefore, Americans are petty and petulant to victimize Nigerians misconceived as holding views opposed to American interest. America cannot love peace and progress in Nigeria more than we desire in our country. I love my country more than Ambassador Campbell will claim to love Nigeria. If therefore we hold the same view on a major political/constitutional issue in Nigeria, both of us should be treated equally by Nigerian and American governments.
In that situation, if Ambassador Campbell should continue to enjoy visa right to visit Nigeria, subject to our immigration regulations, I too should continue to enjoy similar privilege to visit America, subject to their visa regulations. Instead, what happened in my own case? This should interest Father Kukah. Not for the first time, on July 15, 2010, I applied to renew my American visitor's visa, a privilege dating back to 1973 when I first visited the country. I was rather amused to be refused the visa at least for now.
The man handed me a standard letter on which he ticked 'Administrative Processing' under which the applicant is informed that 'before we can continue adjudicating your non-immigrant visa application, your case must undergo additional administrative processing. We will notify you by e-mail or phone is complete. Please do not return until we have contacted you. If you have not heard from us within sixty days of your original interview date, you may send an e-mail and request an update.'
The sixty days expired on September 15, 2010.
I was not given any reason(s) but I knew why. Immediately after Jonathan's assumption of office, as Acting President, American government issued a statement of its intention to revoke existing visa and refuse visa applications of those it classified as 'hindering or obstructing democracy in Nigeria.'
Accordingly, for expressing the same view like Ambassador Campbell that the process of making Goodluck Jonathan Acting President of Nigeria was extra-legal, America listed me among those, obstructing democracy in Nigeria, whatever that means. This was just one of the ostensible reasons for refusing me the US visa.
For that same reason, Nigeria is also correct to classify Ambassador Campbell as obstructing democracy in Nigeria for declaring Jonathan's office as Acting President extra-legal. Noticeably, I was not in Umaru Yar'Adua's government. In fact, I left public office in 1993 but as a Nigerian citizen and journalist, I have the inalienable right not only to hold and express views or any political or economic issue in my country but also the right not to satisfy America on such issues.
Incidentally, the first time my visa was revoked was in 1993 over the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 elections. So, I am therefore, on a familiar ground, and did not complain at that time since I served in a government which cancelled the elections, an inescapable sacrifice for collective punishment even if you did not subscribe to the political crisis.
While in the public domain, America disagreed quite rightly with the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, the same American government had no qualms in recognizing the succeeding Shonekan and Abacha regimes. For six years, I never bothered to apply for US visa until that government, on its own, revoked the visa ban. Since then, I have obtained American visa three times each of a duration of two years, the last of which ended this year and I never violated the conditions of entry or stay in the United States.
The second ostensible reason for withholding my American visa was the Jos, Plateau State crisis last time when Nigerian Senators irresponsibly and recklessly described the mere ethnic disturbances, an intermittent admittedly sad event in Nigeria, as acts of terrorism. Acts of terrorism? In any case, after rebuking the Senators, I duly warned them that by alarming the world of a non-existent terrorism in Nigeria, the Senators were inadvertently giving reason(s) for United States to re-list (repeat re-list) Nigeria as a terrorist state.
Following the stupid and futile attempt of youthful Nigerian Mutallab, to bomb an aeroplane at Detroit airport, United States on December 25, 2009, listed Nigeria as a terrorist state and Nigerians almost to a man protested rightly since there are no terrorists in Nigeria. In response, the United States delisted Nigeria as a terrorist state. If therefore, on account of domestic religious/ethnic violence, Senators described the incident as acts of terrorism, what was wrong for me to alert them they should blame themselves if Nigeria was re-listed again as a terrorist state?
Were the Senators not preparing the ground for such? What was wrong in warning the Senators not to play into American hands?
For that alert, which in a way, could even have offered US the ground to slam Nigeria a terrorist state, I was classified by the Americans as supporting terrorists. I am a Nigerian and cannot keep quiet to allow irresponsible Senators to acquire undeservedly the status of a terrorist state for Nigeria. I know and all of us know that Nigeria is not a terrorist state.
American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was here last time berating most unjustifiably that the EFCC, and infact, Nigeria for allegedly abandoning or slowing down on the war on corruption. Clinton's view obviously was a continuation of America's disapproval of the change of guard at EFCC. Why that should be so was not clear. Does Nigeria ever insist that whoever is head of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) must not be replaced if and when it suits any American government? Does Nigeria ever therefore blackmail that assumption of office by a new FBI director means slowing down on war of corruption in the United States?
Consequently, Hilary Clinton was taken up in this column that contrary to her view, the battle against corruption in Nigeria is on the same level as in the United States. The argument in this column was further that the duty of Nigeria's EFCC (like America's FBI) is to arrest an accused and prosecute him/her in a court of law, even up to Supreme Court. Nigeria would not go outside the law to clamp citizens into jail for alleged corruption, in complete disregard for provisions of the law, all to impress the United States.
Clinton was implored that as a lawyer, she should be in the forefront of strict adherence to rule of law, no matter the gravity of the financial crimes.
The fundamental question was raised in this column on why Hilary Clinton deliberately kept quiet on (the then) raging financial scandal among members of British parliament including serving and shadow ministers?
Certainly, with such affront and within the convenience of US embassy's policy of refusing visas to Nigerian corrupt public officials, I was listed as defending corruption and refused visa.
These Americans! Was an American Vice-President not mentioned in the Halliburton scandal? Is his non-prosecution therefore an evidence of slowing down or indeed, abandonment of war on corruption?
This level of intolerance of criticism from someone aspiring to the American presidency is shocking. There is this arrogance of the United States to dictate to the world. Everybody cannot satisfy America and it should not be a crime to differ with the United States on any matter.
George Galloway, a former member of British parliament was similarly treated by banning him from visiting the United States on the false allegation that he is supporting terrorists. And who are the terrorists?
Palestinians. Galloway is standing up and out in his sympathy for the Palestinians.
For this, he was subjected to blackmail that he was collecting funds from saddam Hussein, Mohammar Gadaffi and the Iranians.
Galloway had to fight back by daring the American Congress for a public hearing where he not only debunked all the false allegations but also asserted his unrepentance and personal legitimate right to show sympathy to the war-weary Palestinians by leading the floatilla of convoy of relief materials.
I support Father Kukah in defending Ambassador John Campbell against overzealous Nigerian government officials.
However, I support Nigerian government not to renew John Campbell's visa. He and I should suffer the same treatment for regarding Goodluck Jonathan's assumption of office as extra legal. American government, on that score, is not renewing my visa and Nigerian government should equally not renew John Campbell's visa. John Campbell can find out details at the American embassy in Lagos.
Jonathan scrapping EFCC and others?
President Goodluck Jonathan must settle this once and for all. Can a minister publicly be criticising government policy and remain in cabinet?
Lately, there have been calls for the scrapping of government security and law enforcement agencies specifically set up to tackle particular problems in society. It is therefore a direct assault on that government policy for a cabinet minister to publicly call for the scrapping of those agencies.
It is fine for ordinary Nigerians to express such dissent but a minister does not have such freedom. If a minister disagrees with such fundamental policy, the option is to quit and contest the Presidential election, making scrapping such law enforcement agencies an election issue.
There is nothing peculiar to Nigeria in setting up EFCC, NDLEA etc. In the United States, apart from federal and state police, there are still the NDLEA to tackle drug crimes, the FBI to tackle high profile criminal offences, the CIA to tackle crimes against the state either within or from abroad, the National Guard to put down uncontrollable violence etc.
In Britain, apart from Scotland Yard (equivalent of Nigeria police) there are M15 and M16 internal security and guard against external aggression, the serious Fraud Offence etc, all operating to ensure security and against crimes. A minister's freedom to criticise government policy is limited to cabinet meetings. The moment he goes public even impliedly with criticism of government policy, it is only honourable to quit. Where he does not quit and continues to publicly criticise government policy, such minister must be fired. It is the standard all over the world.
And how justified is the call to scrap these other law enforcement agencies? Do the police not have enough to cope with? What was the record of police in tackling growing drug crimes in terms of detention, prosecution and conviction of the culprits? What was the record of police in prosecuting even barefaced corruption cases? Specifically, what was the record of the anti-fraud unit of the police? But for the setting up of the FRSC, what was the traffic situation on federal highways and internal roads in major cities like Lagos, Benin, Kano, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Ibadan, Onitsha, Enugu etc.
If the police coped effectively to ensure smooth flow of traffic, would FRSC have been set up? The only reasonable demand may be decentralization of FRSC to allow states manage the corps. Instead of dismissing these law enforcement agencies as white elephant projects, the police should engage in some self-examination of its performance.
Since almost ten years, Nigeria police have no clue to the murder of Chief Law Officer in Nigeria, late federal Attorney-General Bola Ige. Almost everyday, murder is committed with impunity in any village or city in Nigeria. How many of such murders have the police solved? What happened to a retired AIG who murdered his wife at a hotel in Ilorin, Kwara State on grounds of adultery? So what? Is adultery a capital offence? Must the AIG self-prosecute and execute an accused?
No matter how minimal, at least the EFCC tackles financial crimes and gets the culprits convicted. The NDLEA also intercepts drug criminals leaving or entering Nigeria. With the disturbing police ineffectiveness, what would be the situation in Nigeria today without NDLEA, FRSC or EFCC? It was therefore a deliberate government policy to set up these agencies to combat financial, drug or traffic crimes.
On his part, President Jonathan must assert his authority for ministerial discipline. What is more, he cannot operate double standard. Last time, Finance Minister of State, Babalola said NNPC was broke and Aso Rock not only countered him but also deployed him to another cabinet post. This time, police minister is deliberately and publicly running down government law enforcement agencies. The Minister is either right or wrong. If the Minister is right, Jonathan should not be surprised if federal Attorney-General publicly takes a stand that the special allocation of twelve new oil blocs to Bayelsa State is unconstitutional.
If on the other hand, the police minister is wrong in his incessant public criticisms of other law enforcement agencies, President Jonathan must read the riot act to his cabinet.